All in the 'Details'

He hangs with celebs, airs his neuroses - does Dan Peres edit a men's magazine or live it?

August 25, 2004|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Inside Half King, a bar in Chelsea that fancies itself an after-hours hangout for literary scenesters, Dan Peres listens like a guy in search of the next story idea.

The editor in chief of Details magazine turns from the Australian actress he's dating and listens to a co-worker who is saying that men always used to grope her when she worked in a bar. Is it true, the editor of the trendy men's magazine wants to know, do men really still grab cocktail waitresses? Over their drinks, someone else describes parachuting from an airplane, and Peres interjects again, asking if skydiving can cure a fear of heights. A guy at the end of the table mentions that he was so freaked out by last year's blackout, he broke down and took his first Xanax. "You'd never taken a Xanax?" Peres asks with an almost professional curiosity, eager to hear the rest of the story.

It's easy to imagine any of these conversations entering the pages of Details: the glam actress as Monday-night date, the bar lech as endangered species, the free-fall of a phobic skydiver, the urban striver's first anti-anxiety pill. This is what Peres is paid to do: Pay attention to what makes him pay attention.

Now Peres is finding his voice at Details, a magazine he took over four years ago when the publisher vowed to reinvent it from a sometime "laddie mag" with babes and bods to a more writerly exploration of all things male. Details, which studies the styles and sensibilities of modern men, has found praise and controversy as it attempts to challenge stereotypes, ditch political correctness and be smart without boring people.

Along the way, Peres himself has gotten noticed; a youth spent wandering around Pikesville in chinos has led to an adulthood mingling with bold-face names in Armani. With that exposure, he has become a go-to guy for what's in vogue. Last month, he appeared on the front of The New York Times showing off his generation's look of choice (untucked shirttails). And he has been out front on other subjects; in the first major U.S. story on metrosexuals - men exploring their more feminine sides -The Times praised Details as their "Bible." But no sooner had Peres appeared on TV, dressed in Prada, telling ABC's Diane Sawyer about pocket squares and man purses, then he ditched the trend, objecting to the homophobia he said the mainstream marketing brought with it.

No matter what the 32-year-old editor wants to say, Peres knows his magazine can say it for him.

So, as he leaves the bar with his date on this summer night - carrying her purse because she's on crutches after twisting her ankle on a trip the two took to Paris - Peres can know there's an article in the August issue about men who are "whipped" and proud of it because they are so crazy about their girlfriends. He can know a bad bachelor party he attended with some Baltimore friends will at least be good for a rant in his magazine - "Is the Bachelor Party Dead? And Will Anyone Miss It?" He can wonder about how men are, and are not, pigs, and get an answer in a recent Details profile of the lawyer who won a record child-support case against hip-hop mogul Sean "P. Diddy" Combs.

"This is what I think this type of guy wants to see," Peres says one morning in his office, studying the mockup pages for the next issue pinned to his office corkboard, "based solely on the fact that I'm this type of guy."

It's safe to assume the men in his magazine are a lot like Peres - in other words, comfortably self-involved, sure of their place in the world and, at the same time, prone to ego hiccups. The Details reader is a reflection of expensive grooming products and contemporary neuroses - as much shaped by James Bond as Woody Allen. (No wonder Peres grew up with a picture of the comedian in his bedroom in the family's Pikesville home.) The smart-guy angst comes naturally for Peres, who half-argues he stumbled into success through a string of events that started when he chose the school paper at Baltimore's Boys' Latin because he didn't want to shower in the locker room with all the jocks.

"I'm curious about people's insecurities and neuroses," he says. "I think it's a great strength of the magazine."

But Peres is hardly hiding at home, contemplating his flaws. Consider scenes of this editor at work: Peres talking face lifts with designer Karl Lagerfeld, chatting baseball with singer Elton John, musing over poetry with style impresario Emanuel Ungaro, shooting pool with Rolling Stone guitarist Ron Wood, spotting designer John Galliano on the bench press at the gym, discussing his mother with fashion diva Donatella Versace, jetting to a film set to see his girlfriend, Sarah Wynter, an actress from TV's 24 with whom the tabloids have said he is endlessly smitten.

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